After spending a good deal of time off-road on my G650GS in the past few months, it didn’t take me long to conclude that a few things were holding me back: namely the front suspension. In a previous review I did of the G650GS I reiterated how the front end would easily wash out in deep sand, gravel roads and ruts. After talking to Alex from Konflict suspension in Seattle WA, he suggested we upgrade the front forks to progressive springs for a much more off-road bias motorcycle.
For someone like me who is has trouble explaining using normal human ways, expressing that “wallowy” and “squishy” are ways to describe how my bike reacts to difficult circumstances, I turned to the internets to determine what is is that I have, and what I was going to get to see if made any sense to me at all.
The Normal Springs my bike has are Linear rate Springs which means there is equal spacing between the coils and they are designed to respond with a specific rate when compressed. That rate will always be linear regardless of what kind of load is placed on the springs, in addition to any other loads that are placed on the springs. Sounds good right?
Progressive Springs, which is what Konflict recommends, each coil is spaced differently and have a variable spring rate. When free, it is easy to compress progressive springs for the first centimeters. As you apply more forces, coil on a progressive spring come closer. After a certain point, coil at the top 1/4 of progressive springs begin to touch each other and finally become inactive or dead, and that makes the spring stiffer. Apply more forces to a progressive spring then it becomes stiffer because as the number of active coils in a spring decreases, the spring rate increases. So, progressive springs may both be sensitive to very small bumps on the road, while giving the stiffness you need during hard braking and turning. This is a good thing.
In my narrow experience, the Progressive Springs are the ticket. The “wallowy” and “squishy” feeling I was experiencing with the Normal Springs were quickly erased with “solid” and “firm” results where I needed it. The biggest improvement on-road I noticed occurred on the highways where I would get a lot of front end wobble, now the front wheel is stationary and firm to it’s line. Off-road the improvement is vast, each surface it feels planted and slow speed maneuvers tip in and out without the front end wildly dashing from side to side. I’m a much happier GS rider.